In the last two decades a slowly growing jazz scenario came to life, merging the noir atmospheres of some dark-colored movies with the distended soundscapes so typical in doom music. Ideally starting with the sonorities of late Miles Davis and John Coltrane, the main influences come from one genre to another, declaring an everlasting love for Angelo Badalamenti’s way of composing. It’s way too easy to recognize several Twin Peak’s reminiscences on these records: the dreamlike sounds they evoke perfectly fit David Lynch’s masterpiece.
At the of the day, the label Dark-Jazz stands for a certain mixture of ambient and jazz, noir and downtempo, doom and melancholic tones, that perfectly redefines the borders of a timeless music genre. Normally, most of the bands involved in this category came from Death Metal/Hardcore small projects, bringing the sludge and slow sonorities of their previous experiences into a brand new jazz-likely idea. Here a list of some of the most representative artists: a personal selection turned into a “Magnificent Seven” Dark jazz collection.
Bohren & der Club of Gore
Hailing from Mühlheim an der Ruhr, a small town in West Germany, this band probably is the most famous Dark Jazz ensemble or, at least, the highest peak reached in this music scenario. Founded in 1992 by former members of several hardcore bands, Bohren & der Club of Gore admitted a strong influence coming from darkest Black Sabbath records and down tuned Death Metal bands. Releasing the stunning Gore Motel in 1994, they started the so-called Dark-Jazz trend, that found its proper bloom just at the of the century. It’s hard to choose a single record from their catalog, even if Sunset Mission and Black Heart (2002) may be a good starter (the latter especially because of the amazing Constant Fear). The sound of the band reminds of some distended jazz patterns, probably close to Chet Baker’s melancholic tunes, even if the ambient-flavoured tracks let everything be slower and darker. It really seems like watching some gangster movies in slow motion.
Heroin and your Veins
Surely not the best name to introduce your project, Heroin and Your Veins is the solo project of former goth-rock UltraNoir guitarist Janne Perttula. Based in Tampere, a small city in Southern Finland, Janne released his first solo record in 2007: a collection of 12 tunes, deeply soaked into a noir and psychobilly atmosphere, with tons of dark-oriented reminiscences. That record, named Dead People’s Trails, opened the path that several artists are keep on following (such as Dirty Beaches) and melted the 50s harmonies with a jazzy and darkwave way of composing. As he said, most of the influences came from Bohren & the Club of Gore and Tom Waits, even if he worked on them with such a personal style to realize something unique. You can even find most of his discography on Bandcamp.
The story of James Bradell as a musician is really multicolored and full of anecdotes. His “Untitled” first track was part of a compilation in 1983, then he stopped releasing stuff for more than a decade, he spent ten years in Italy working for films and television coming back in England in the early 90s. Thereafter he started a brand new project called Funki Porcini. Fast Asleep (2002) probably shows Bradell’s poetic at his finest, mixing breakbeat and downtempo drum sections with jazz and Drone music. Listen to Sleepy to experience a nocturne feeling: literally, a great track to fall asleep with.
This Russian Ensemble, named after a really small town in the Moscow Oblast, learned the lesson of bands such as Bohren & der Club of Gore and The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble to create a brand new way of playing this kind of music. Focused on neoclassical harmonies and soundscapes, Povarovo released Tchernovik in 2007 (reissued in 2012 via denovali records). That record revealed a great potential, showing a fine mix of dreamlike sounds and classical arrangements: the entire track list leads the listener into a gloomy and soporific land, without any chance to find a ray of light. This project combined a huge love for ambient music with jazz and classical tones. The perfect band to play ambient music in a bar, late at night.
The Dale Cooper Quartet
This project from Brittany (Brest is a city overlooking the Atlantic Ocean) probably represents the most traditional jazz band on this list. The Saxophones, lonely and so slow with their lines, create a typical jazzy atmosphere (especially if jazzy implies the word bluesy). Most likely looking at some Badalamenti’s compositions, The Dale Cooper Quartet makes a huge use of drones and electronic samples, with a clear focus on bass tones and foggy soundscapes. Parole de Navarre is a good sample of what they’re able to do on a record, providing the right dose of melancholia and blue feelings.
Founded by Thomas Weber in 1997, this German collective combines the free-jazz way of experimenting with a peculiar use of glitch samples and ambient sustained sounds. This original mixture is blended with an extraordinary ability in condensing everything in an affordable summa: listening to their records is quite pleasant, although we’re still talking about some kind of noise music. Kammerflimmer Kollektief might have showed their best with Cicadae (2003): a great example of how electronic glitch could walk hand-in-hand with ambient jazz music.
This Australian trio is more inclined on the ambient fields of this music genre, working on a time-stretched version of the typical minimal jazz sounds. Starting their career in Sydney during the late 80s, The Necks count on a vast discography, with several worthy albums in it. Last release, Open (2013), contains a 68min self-named track that stunningly flows through ethereal soundwaves and percussions. The use they make of cymbals and bells gives this records a dreamy and airy taste that strongly contributes to create a continuous stream of well-played ambient music. Music to chill with, enjoying the relentless flow of time.